After four days and multiple rounds of calmly spelling words like “paucispiral,” “jagüey,” “haecceitas,” and “ankyloglossia,” 14-year-old Karthik Nemmani was declared champion of the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee after correctly spelling the word “koinonia.”
Hailing from McKinney, Texas, Nemmani beat out a record-shattering number of competitors from across the country. After [Scripps launched a new wild-card program] (https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2018/06/01/us/ap-us-spelling-bee.html) that gave spellers like Nemmani the chance to compete at the local level against some of the nation’s established spellers, this year’s competition soared to 515 spellers, in comparison to the [2017 spelling bee] (https://www.teenvogue.com/story/sixth-grader-ananya-vinay-wins-national-spelling-bee) that was comprised of only 291 spellers. Of the 16 prime-time finalists, four of the competitors (one of whom was Nemmani) got in through the wild-card program, known as “RSVBee.”
The RSVBee program is the reason why Nemmani had the opportunity to compete as one of the final two contestants against an established speller like 12-year-old Naysa Modi. Even though Modi (from Frisco, Texas) beat Nemmani in their county bee, the wild-card program allowed Nemmani to continue to compete at the national competition; in the past, losing at the county level would have made him ineligible for the national competition.
The addition of the RSVBee program truly did change everything. The national competition came to a surprisingly abrupt end Thursday when Modi misspelled the word “bewusstseinslage” in the first championship round, leaving out the second ‘s.’ Nemmani then had to spell only two words correctly to grab the title, which he did, winning on “koinonia,” a word that means Christian fellowship or communion.
After securing the title and watching confetti rain down on the stage, Nemmani said, “I’m just really happy” and that [winning this competition] (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2018/05/31/from-record-breaking-field-41-finalists-move-on-at-national-spelling-bee/?utm_term=.8bd1e3453833) “has just been a dream come true.” But even amongst his joy, his humility stayed in place. When [asked about competing] (http://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/23664983/karthik-nemmani-edges-naysa-modi-win-scripps-national-spelling-bee) against Modi, Nemmani said, “She’s a really, really good speller. She deserved the trophy as much as I did. I got lucky.”
In addition to winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee champion trophy and title, Nemmani will receive more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.
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